Big Bucks for U.S. Science, Area 41, and Porn at NSF

As the global economy continues to melt down, scientists saw some bright spots this week. But the news wasn't all good, and some of it was downright bizarre. Here are some highlights from Science's science policy blog, ScienceInsider:

U.S. scientists saw more dollar signs this week when the U.S. Senate proposed billions for federal research as part of a massive economic stimulus package. ScienceInsider has a breakdown of who gets what here. Things weren't as rosy north of the border: On Tuesday, the Canadian prime minister unveiled a budget that makes some big cuts to the country's main source of research grants. Given the prospects for flush funding in the United States, Canadian scientists worry about a brain drain. Scientists in France are even more riled up, thanks to an incendiary speech by President Nicolas Sarkozy, which lambasted the country's research system as "infantilizing and paralyzing."

Also making headlines this week: two chemical elements. Officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory are scratching their heads over a mysterious case of beryllium contamination. Adding to the intrigue is the source of the harmful chemical: a part of the lab known as Technical Area 41. Meanwhile, off dry land, scientists have started dumping 6 tons of iron into the Southern Ocean as part of a controversial geoengineering project that aims to increase the ocean's ability to absorb CO2.

And finally, in a bit of bizarre news, an unnamed senior official at the U.S. National Science Foundation apparently viewed pornography on a work computer over 2 years. The incident has caught the attention of Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who now questions whether the agency deserves the $3 billion the U.S. House of Representatives has proposed giving it as part of the economic stimulus package.

Science policy is as unpredictable as science itself. Stay in the know with ScienceInsider.

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